Saturday, November 05, 2022

Kendrick Lamar Stuns In Glasgow With Dazzling, State-Of-The-Art Show

American rapper Kendrick Lamar, who in May released his critically-acclaimed fifth studio album ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’, has left fans mesmerised as he takes his 'Big Steppers Tour' worldwide.

The skill, creativity, and innovation shown on the album and its tour has certainly cemented Lamar’s position as one of the most talented and influential hip-hop artists of our generation. As a long-time fan myself, his show at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro on Wednesday was the second time I’d seen him live since his 2018 ‘DAMN.’ tour, and it was as enthralling and exhilarating as the first.

Lamar made the clever choice of having his cousin and regular collaborator Baby Keem accompany him on the ‘Big Steppers Tour'. This led to an opening performance from Keem (preceded by a brief but brilliant set from the talented Tanna Leone) that was incredibly well-received; the audience went wild for favourites ‘trademark usa’, ‘lost souls’, and ‘ORANGE SODA’.

The highlight of Keem’s performance, however, was not in his opening set - it was his joint performance with Lamar himself, particularly of their crowd-pleasing ‘family ties’ near the end of Lamar’s set. The high-energy dynamic between the two on stage was, undeniably, absolutely enthralling for their audience.

Lamar’s setlist was immaculately put together. It allowed him to commit extensive time and production efforts to the performances of the tracks from his newest album, whilst also ensuring that his audience was provided with stellar outings of his most popular hits from earlier albums, particularly ‘DAMN.’ and ‘good kid, M.A.A.D City’.

Simultaneously, the structure of the setlist created a sense of journey throughout the performance. Throughout, the tracks were punctuated with brief intervals of narration voiced by Helen Mirren, who takes on the role of Lamar’s ‘therapist’ as he travelled through deep self-exploration.

In the set’s first half, in which Lamar largely played tracks that tackle the concept of the ego, his ‘therapist’ told Lamar that he has “once again let his ego get the better of (him)” before an explosive performance of his hugely popular ‘HUMBLE.’.

Stylistically, Lamar’s performance was visually stunning - minimalist, but laced with theatrical imagery and audio additions which rendered the show a true spectacle. Powerful visual metaphors pervaded the set, all tying into his newest album’s central lyrical themes of introspection, self-reflection, and the ego. Indeed, Lamar opened with ‘United In Grief’ - a track exploring coping mechanisms for struggle and grief - as he held a ventriloquist puppet of himself.

The show also included performances from phenomenal dancers, stunning background visuals. These included Lamar’s shadow being pierced with arrows as he sung about past trauma and mistakes on ‘Count Me Out’, and Lamar performing inside a box, in which he took a mock COVID test before delivering a mesmerising performance of his grand classic, ‘Alright’.

Lamar closed the show with affecting performances of ‘Crown’, ‘Mr. Morale’, and ‘Savior’ from his newest album, all of which explore ideas of self-acceptance and thus brought a sense of satisfying closure to the dazzling journey that was his performance.

Despite the theatricality of Lamar’s performance, and the size of the venue in which he was playing, he retained an impressive level of audience engagement. He engaged with fans around the stage, which was extended down the middle of the arena, and repeatedly thanked them for their attendance and energy in a way that felt incredibly genuine. As he closed the show, he proclaimed “I’ll be back!” to an enthralled crowd.

Lamar’s performances – in Glasgow and across the world – truly highlight what makes him so unique and exciting as a musician. The production of his show is incredibly detailed and finely tuned to perfectly accompany the mood and lyrical content of ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’, without neglecting to deliver ever-thrilling versions of his fan-favourite classics. With the detail, passion, and theatricality of his work and performance, it is difficult not to believe that Lamar is the most creative mind in modern hip-hop.

Following the US, Canada, and Europe ‘Big Steppers’ shows, the tour will continue in the UK and Ireland until 16 November, before its last leg in Australia and New Zealand until 17 December.


Ellie Henderson


 Image: 'Mr Morale & The Big Steppers' Official Album Cover 

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